Cognitive and Emotional Health Resources
As I write this (October, 2016) I am serving as a special education teacher in New York City Department of Education. In 13 years in my current appointment, I have watched with great disappointment the stunning incompetence with which the New York City Department of Education deals with the needs of struggling learners. I’ve just finished reading one of Ross Greene’s books, and in the appendix he thoughtfully including a list of national agencies dedicated to assisting children and adolescents dealing with issues that prevent them from engaging fully in their own educations.
If you deal with struggling learners, chances are you are dealing with kids with attenuated or abbreviated attention spans. Children with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD) has been around since 1987, and the organization has a solid history of advocating for understanding of kids dealing with this issue. I’ve seen their literature floating around in various places I’ve worked, and always been favorably impressed.
Over the years, I’ve dealt with a handful of kids with Tourette’s Syndrome, all of them boys, interestingly. HBO produced an excellent documentary on the syndrome called “I Have Tourette’s But Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me”. If you are teaching a student with Tourette’s, you will find information on it at the Tourette Syndrome Association.
Two groups that are more generally helpful to the special education teacher are the Learning Disabilities Association of America and the National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities.
Because I began my career working with children and adolescents in the adolescent program of a major New England psychiatric hospital, when I interviewed for a position in the New York City Teaching Fellowship, I was awarded a special education position. I am interested in children’s mental health, because kids who suffer mental illness cannot learn–that, I believe, ought to be axiomatic in our schools. And parents really ought to know how to advocate for their afflicted children. If you are dealing with these issues in your teaching practice, or if you are a parent of a child with challenges to his or her mental health, you will probably want to look at the National Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health website.
If you have anxious children and adolescents under your tutelage, this mental health challenge can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including obsessive-compulsive disorder. The International Obsessive Compulsive Foundation is a nice clearinghouse for information on this issue. More generally, the Anxiety Disorders Association of America is a good place to find practical advice on assisting anxious students.
Over the years, I’ve seen enough depressed kids and adults to know one when I see–or just as importantly, hear–one. There are several good places to go for information on depressive syndromes. the first is the International Foundation for Depressive Illness. If you have bipolar students, then you might find Depression & Bipolar Support Alliance helpful to your understanding of this illness.
A significant portion of the students I have served over the years would have benefitted, I feel confident in saying, from occupational therapy. If you have a student whose handwriting is difficult to decipher, you might be looking at a child with motor skills challenges. The American Occupational Therapy Association might help you gain some insight into this issue. If your school district is anything like mine–disengaged and cheap–this website might provide you and your students with some assistance.
Children with literacy struggles in our schools are fortunate because federal, state and municipal legislatures and their minions have yet to destroy speech, language and hearing programs like these bodies have in far too many of our public schools. If you are interested in knowing what these vital practitioners do in our schools, you may want to look at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association website.
English Language Arts Resources
If you are an English teacher, or you just desire in general to inculcate better writing habits in your students, then you should definitely check out the the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue. There are a number of sites out there like it, but in my experience it is simply the best. And your students will likely find it, provided the have the background knowledge of terms, quite easy to use.
Elsewhere on this blog I published a post on Steven Van Zandt’s website for educators, TeachRock. The lessons you will find there might be more properly categorized in the social studies section of this page. However you categorize the materials you find there, they are high interest. These are the kinds of lessons that can rouse, I think, the most alienated and apathetic learners.
Let’s begin with what I think is one of the most important research libraries in the United States, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. I lived in Harlem for the first seven years I was in New York City, and for six of those seven years I walked by this institution every morning, and visited its exhibitions regularly. In a neighborhood that was the birthplace for some key elements of American culture, this is a jewel, and that is saying something.
Are you familiar with the civil rights activist Robert Parris “Bob” Moses? I ask because he is relatively easy to confuse with New York City “master builder” Robert Moses (who is the subject of Robert Caro’s magisterial biography The Power Broker). Bob Moses founded The Algebra Project. Math teachers I know tell me that Mr. Moses has done some pioneering work in making algebra and other higher forms of mathematics accessible for students who have struggled with math.
Social Studies Resources
Professional Associations for Teachers
If you’re a middle school teacher, particularly in the Northeast, you may want to check out the New England League of Middle Schools. A good friend of mine works there, and I know that the League puts on some good professional development sessions. If I taught middle school and could get away for the League’s annual conference, I definitely would.
At this point, I don’t know how I discovered the Learning Policy Institute: I don’t know much about it other than I found a note in one of my Moleskines directing me to add it to this section of Mark’s Text Terminal. I’m certain I gleaned it from a book I read for professional development, but I read enough of this kind of stuff that I don’t remember which one.
Books Worth Reading for Professional Development
First of all, for my own records, I want to post links to Modern Library’s Top 100 Novels of the Twentieth Century as well as Modern Library’s 100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century. These lists, I am well aware, are controversial. Nonetheless, I think them important, and for my own purposes, I want them close at hand.
Here’s a list of reference books that have informed my instructional planning and teaching practice for the struggling learners I’ve served over the course of my career. Below here, I’ve written brief annotations of those I consider vital to building instructional materials for learners with challenges.
Elsewhere on this blog I’ve linked to or excerpted from materials I’ve gleaned from my reading of The American Federation of Teachers’ quarterly, the American Educator. I’ll say once more that this is a first rate compendium of research and analysis on key issues in public education in the United States. Indeed, it was through this periodical that I first encountered the work of Daniel Willingham (he writes the magazine’s “Ask the Cognitive Scientist” column), which has informed much of my thinking about planning instruction for struggling learners.
You might find useful or instructive this list of respected, peer-reviewed journals, which I excerpted from Jerome L. Rekart’s book The Cognitive Classroom (New York: Rowman & Littlefield Education, 2013).